VALLEJO, Calif. - The confrontation that led to the shooting death of a 36-year-old man in Vallejo by an off-duty police sergeant, apparently started over a parking space, witnesses told KTVU.
Meanwhile, sources identified the officer as Sgt. Virgil Thomas, a 27-year veteran of the Richmond police force. Richmond police have not formally identified him. “This is a difficult time for our department,” the police department said on its Facebook page.
Richmond only confirmed that an off-duty officer was involved in a shooting on Sunday about 5:30 p.m. and that a man died of gunshot wounds.
Family and friends say that Thomas, a 23-year-veteran of the force, shot and killed 38-year-old Eric Reason, a Vallejo father and rapper, after the two argued at the parking lot of JJ’s Fish and Chicken. Witnesses told KTVU that one of the men cut the other one off in the parking lot. It was unclear who cut off whom.
"Somebody cut either one of them off in this parking lot. So the dispute was over a parking situation," said Reason's mother, Stephanie Bass.
"He didn't deserve that. He didn't deserve to die like that," Reason's mother, Stephanie Bass, said.
Two guns were recovered from the scene, and investigators believe Reason brandished a gun, prompting the off-duty sergeant to open fire, sources said.
“If that is the case, I still think that it still wasn't necessary,” said Bass said.
A family friend who asked not to be identified said, “Being armed in and of itself does not warrant an execution.”
The Richmond police union put out a statement Monday, without using names, but still, alleging that Reason “confronted” Thomas with a gun. Richmond police Det. Ben Therriault, the president of the department’s police union, wrote: “Unfortunately, when a police officer is confronted with a felon armed with a firearm, deadly force may be necessary. We ask that you please reserve judgment until the investigation is finished.” Thomas used to be president of the union.
Many of Reason's friends and family gathered at the parking lot in question to remember Reason, a father of six and construction worker. The Vallejo Times Herald said he was also known as Cheddaman, a local Vallejo rapper who appeared on a popular 2009 compilation album “Country Club Crest: 3 C’s Down.”
Reason was described by relatives as a family man who grew up in Vallejo, worked in scaffolding, was known for his athletic ability growing up, and was the father of six kids.
Even though Thomas was off duty, authorites invoked Solano County’s protocol for officer-involved shootings, which means the district attorney will join Vallejo police to investigate what happened.
Richmond Police Sgt. Virgil Thomas.
Police investigate the fatal shooting at JJ Fish and Chicken in Vallejo. Nov. 10, 2019